Friday, February 4, 2011

The Bimbo & The Jock Make War & Peace: "It Had To Be You" by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

The Windy City isn't quite ready for Phoebe Somerville--the trendy, outrageous and curvaceous New York knockout who has just inherited the Chicago Stars professional football team. And Phoebe is definitely not prepared for the Stars' head coach Dan Calebo--an Alabama-born former gridiron legend and blond barbarian.

Calebo is everything Phoebe abhors--a sexist, jock taskmaster with a one-track mind. The beautiful new boss is everything Dan despises--a meddling bimbo who doesn't know pigskin from a pitcher's mound. So why is he drawn to the shameless sexpot like a heat-seeking missile? And why does Dan's good ol' boy charm leave cosmopolitan Phoebe feeling awkward, tongue-tied and frightened to death?

Suddenly there's more than just a championship at stake. Because passion's the name of this game--and two stubborn people are playing for keeps!

Phoebe Somerville really did set everyone in the Chicago Stars organization on edge--especially with all the problems the team and its management were facing. Bert Somerville, Phoebe's now deceased father was a selfish, power-seeking, I'll-do-it-my-way kind of guy. He had two wives, both of whom were Vegas showgirls who were blonde, tall, leggy, busty, and--according to him--dumb. He said he liked it that way. Phoebe and her sister Molly were both infected by his derision and neglect that his lack of caring. Their world was totally lacking any kind of loving kindness, especially after each of the wives departed, both were now dead.

Now Phoebe had to take over the team ownership and had to prove her worth as a sharp and insightful business woman, but there was a catch. If the Stars didn't win the AFC championship, the ownership would revert to her cousin who was just like her dad. And the way the Stars were playing, with attendance dropping and the front office full of arguing and conflict, a championship was the least likely thing to happen.

Enter Dan Calebo, a man who absolutely despised Phoebe and everything he thought she cared about. Forget that he had a penchant for Chicago's most glamorous "eye candy" to hang on his arm, and thought every woman had an IQ of 50. He hated the way she dressed, he hated her seeming lack of interest in the future of the team, he even hated her frou frou poodle. Yet there was something about Phoebe that kept drawing him in--mostly to argue with her and to get upset with her--at least at first.

This book was a real joy for me. I grew up around Chicago--from the time I was 6 years old until I was a senior in high school, I either lived in the city proper or in a community within 150 miles. Our family were life-long Chicago Bear fans, and my hubby and I and our kids lived in a suburb of Chicago that was only a few miles from Naperville, the headquarters of this fictional pro team. Back in the 50's and 60's there were indeed two professional football teams in Chicago--the Bears and the Chicago Cardinals. (The Cardinals now play in Arizona.) So imagining another pro team in Chicago wasn't all that difficult. I found this book to be extremely interesting in that it was a very accurate look-see into the inner workings of a pro team and some of the pressures that can cause some fairly overwhelming conflict between the players, coaches, and management.

This book is also about the issue of deciding who someone really is based on externals. Phoebe made some judgment calls about Dan that were very much in error. She was unaware that he was tired to the bone of all the glitz and glamour that had been a part of his life during his playing days and now as a head coach. Phoebe didn't know that he was looking for a wife--a woman who wanted a home and family, who loved him for himself and not for his image, fame, or money. In fact, he was courting an elementary school teacher who was quiet, loved kids, and pretty, but even though he was drawn to her, he couldn't get Phoebe out of his brain or stop responding to an attraction that just didn't seem to lessen. Dan was also challenged to discover that a blonde bimbo-type woman could actually teach him something about people, lessons that could help him build the team he so desperately wanted and a winning one at that.

Dan saw Phoebe's history as a jet-setting, New York loving, art-loving twit, a woman who had been in relationships with world-class artists and whose portraits (nude) were hanging in museums all over the world. He didn't know she was a scared little girl who had hungered for stability and love all her life, who wanted someone to see her and love her when she wasn't made up to the last eyelash or wearing her gold lame dresses. She wanted a man who recognized that she had a brain (and a very good one, at that) and who could hold her own among the powerful men who thought she was just a useless piece of feminine fluff.

There is a lot of humor in this story, a lot of deep thinking to be done by all the characters, a sense that there are a number of characters in this story besides Phoebe and Dan who need to discover their own place in the scheme of life and to celebrate who they really are. And as we are approaching Super Bowl Sunday, it seemed appropriate to consider that often the difference between a winning team and one that just doesn't quite make it, or one that skids all the way to the bottom of the standings--all of whom have really good players--can be the attitudes of their coaches, their ability to relax and use their talents, and the confidence the management has in their skills.

This book has been around for 17 years, yet it's remarkably contemporary and one that I found to be so much fun to read. I even read some portions to my football fan[atic] hubby. Lots of fun, some sad times and some not-so-nice people, renewed family ties, and the discovery that love can come wrapped in some surprising packages. If you haven't read this series, you owe it to yourself to do so. I give this novel a rating of 4.25 out of 5.


The Romance Girl said...

This was my first sports romance and the first SEP I read and I also loved it. Thanks for the review!

Tracy said...

A very cute book. I started this series at book..uh, well, not the first. I went back and tried to read them in order and just couldn't do it. SEP is one of my favorites though.